When Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1859 it rocked the modern world.
He was praised and condemned in equal measure during his lifetime and, still, today his supporters and opponents speak in terms of the genius or delusion of this one man. But Darwin was not alone in arriving at this grand idea. He received a letter from theologian and physicist, Reverend Baden Powell, pointing out that other great thinkers, throughout history, had puzzled over the development of life, and should be acknowledged.
Historian and novelist Rebecca Stott introduces us to Darwin at home with his family, pursuing the claims of Powell’s letter, exploring the writings of leading philosophers, and drawing up a list of the works which supported his outstanding conclusion. Leaving Darwin in his windswept Kent countryside, Stott takes us chapter by chapter from the islands of Greece through Italian courtyards and markets in the desert to tunnels in the Derbyshire hillside. The sense of place is vividly and beautifully presented.
We meet the men behind the legends that are Aristotle and Leonardo da Vinci, among others, and share with them in their intellectual tousles and the pressures they face in challenging the norms of society, religion and politics. Darwin’s Ghosts is a highly readable series of beguiling biographies and fascinating histories which together form a compelling narrative of the evolution of an astonishing idea.